Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., heaped praise on Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., Monday after she resisted her party's calls to reform the filibuster and helped Republicans block much of President Joe Biden's first-term agenda.
The Republican leader appeared alongside Sinema at the McConnell Center at the University of Louisville, touting the Democrat as "extraordinarily effective" and a "genuine moderate."
At one point McConnell lauded her as "the most effective first-term senator I've seen in my time in the Senate."
"She is today what we have too few of in the Democratic Party, a genuine, moderate, and a dealmaker," McConnell said. "It took one hell of a lot of guts for Kyrsten Sinema to stand up and say, 'I'm not going to break the institution in order to achieve a short-term goal."
Sinema during her speech focused on what she described as bipartisanship and pragmatism.
"Despite our apparent differences, Sen. McConnell and I have forged a friendship, one that is rooted in our commonalities, including our pragmatic approach to legislating, our respect for the Senate as an institution," she said. "In today's partisan Washington, it might shock some that a Democratic would consider the Republican leader of the Senate her friend. But back home in Arizona, we don't view life through a partisan lens. Arizonans understand that while we may not agree on every issue, we do share the same values."
Sinema, whose defense of the filibuster rule helped prevent Democrats from advancing legislation protecting abortion rights, voting rights, labor rights and immigrants, also used her speech to call to strengthen the filibuster and give the Senate minority even more power. Sinema called to restore the 60-vote threshold to confirm federal judges and executive nominees, which McConnell and the GOP used to block many of former President Barack Obama's nominees. Former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Senate Democrats scrapped the threshold in 2013. McConnell later went a step further in 2017, eliminating the threshold for Supreme Court nominees ahead of Justice Neil Gorsuch's confirmation.
"Not only am I committed to the 60-vote threshold, I have an incredibly unpopular view. I actually think we should restore the 60-vote threshold for the areas in which it has been eliminated already. We should restore it," Sinema said.
"Not everyone likes that," she continued, "because it would make it harder for us to confirm judges and it would make it harder for us to confirm executive appointments in each administration, but I believe that if we did restore it, we would see more of that middle ground in all parts of our governance, which is what, I believe, our forefathers intended."
Sinema argued that it is important to protect the filibuster given the volatility of the congressional majority, which she predicted her party would lose in the midterms.
"It's likely to change again in just a few weeks," she said. "While it is frustrating as a member of the minority in the United States Senate — and equally as frustrating in the majority, because you must have 60 votes to move forward, that frustration represents solely the short-term angst of not getting what you want. "We shouldn't get everything we want in the moment because later, upon cooler reflection, you recognize that it has probably gone too far."
Sinema's comments did not sit well with some of her Democratic colleagues.
"Sen Sinema's position is bad history, bad policy, and bad politics," tweeted Rep. Brandon Boyle, D-Pa.
Rep. Ruben Gallego, D-Ariz., who has floated a possible primary challenge to Sinema, hit back at her prediction that Democrats would likely lose in November.
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"I mean you could be out there helping our candidates @SenatorSinema But my sense is that you would actually prefer the Dems lose control of the Senate and House," he tweeted. "Now that I think of it. I have been traveling the state and country. Donating, raising funds and encouraging people to come out and vote and I have seen you nowhere @SenatorSinema."
Political pundits also lashed out at Sinema.
"It is fundamentally undemocratic for an elected official in the United States to publicly advocate for minority rule and for overturning the wishes of the voters who sent them to DC," wrote MSNBC host Mehdi Hasan.
"The Constitution does not say that Mitch McConnell shall prevent a nominated Supreme Court Justice from even being considered by the United States Senate for its consent as Mitch McConnell did to Merrick Garland in the last year of the Obama presidency," argued fellow host Lawrence O'Donnell. "Today, Kyrsten Sinema traveled to Kentucky to celebrate Mitch McConnell's constitutional vandalism, and her own relentless ignorance, by saying this about Mitch McConnell."
Former MSNBC host Keith Olbermann bizarrely used the speech to claim that he had dated Sinema and questioned her political evolution.
"When we dated, in 2010-11, Kyrsten was a legit progressive, far to my left. Now she has embraced the Political Industry™️ where there is only process, not policy, and never people," he tweeted, before taking a shot at MSNBC host Chuck Todd. "Perfect solution: she can be the next host of @MeetThePress."